Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Drop-shotting for panfish … and predators

By Jeremy Smith

Angling Buzz

In any fishing situation where it’s an advantage to trace the bottom with a sinker while keeping your bait a fixed distance off bottom, drop-shotting can be the ticket. Along summertime weedlines, over bottoms coated in sandgrass or other cover, and anywhere depth changes significantly, drop-shot rigs keep your bait in the zone to be easily detected by fish.

It works for crappies and sunnies as well as bass, pike, and more. Here’s how.

Versatile rig

Drop-shotting gained popularity for targeting fish you see on sonar in deeper water and dropping a bait to them. You see fish and your bait and watch the fish respond. It’s fun and works well, but most of the time I like to cast drop-shot rigs.

It’s not long casts; just short underhand flips. You can pick apart a weedline or other spot quickly and thoroughly with targeted casts. The sinker is in contact with bottom, and the bait can be rigged weedless so you can fish it against weed edges and even through weeds to a degree.

It’s fast and effective in shallow water, too. With a lighter sinker, a drop-shot rig spooks shallow fish less than a bobber does, and keeps the bait where you want it as depth changes.

Rigging up

There are three sinker styles: ball, cylinder, and teardrop shape.

I use the cylinder style most often because it goes through cover well.

The sinker needs to be heavy enough that it sticks to bottom as you use the rod tip to shake the bait in place. Let it sit there for a while, and if you don’t get a bite, pick it up, reel the sinker toward you, let it sit back down on bottom, and shake the bait in place.

For the hook, I primarily use a VMC Spinshot (live-bait style hook) or Spinshot Neko (longer-shank hook). This system features a short wire shank with two eyes and a swivel. Tie your main line to the top eye, and a dropper line from the bottom eye to your sinker (keep hook point facing upward).

More on this next time, but a good rule is a dropper of 1 to 2 feet long.

One knock on drop-shot rigs: They twist your line as the bait falls and gets reeled up. The Spinshot minimizes line twist and eliminates the need for an added swivel.

For bass, walleyes, pike, and the like, I use a spinning rod of about 7 feet. A rod you’d use for live-bait rigging walleyes is a great choice. Generally, I use 10-pound braid with a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader. For panfish, it’s lighter line and smaller hooks, so you “tackle down” accordingly. (Spincast gear works, too.)

Baits are plastics, from baitfish shapes to creatures, or live bait. More on this next time.

The bites

Managing slack line is key to detecting bites.

If fish are aggressive, you might see the line jump or even feel a tick. But many times you’ll shake the bait in place, then lift up the sinker to move it and notice a little resistance. It can feel like the sinker is stuck in mud or on a weed. If you pull and it moves, it’s probably a fish.

With those light, sharp hooks, when you pull back even a little bit it often hooks the fish. You don’t really set the hook. Just reel and the fight is on.

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